Stories

Frosina, an other song from Ohrid

Introduction

Thus is the horrible true story of an unyielding woman who stood for her principles. The story is set at the beginning of the 19th century in Ioannina, where Ali Pasha controls the area. An area which is now part of southern Albania, Epirus and Thessaly in northern Greece and the southern part of North Macedonia. The story has been retold again and again as a poem, as a song, as an opera, as a play and as a film. Told in different ways every time. Told all over the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and even Georgia.
Why is this story about Frosina so famous even in Western Europe and why are the plots of the songs so different? Enjoy, as an example, the differences between the song from Ioannina and Ohrid.

Ali Pasha Tepelena, short history and geopolitical situation

Ali Pasa

Since the French Revolution, new ideas about democracy, society, social justice and freedom of expression have emerged in Europe. The Ottoman Empire was a conservative stronghold for centuries, but new ideas find a breeding ground on the edges of the empire. Ali Pasha (1740 – January 24, 1822), alternately referred to as of Tepelena or of Ioannina, or the Lion of Yannina, was an Ottoman-Albanian ruler who reigned as Pasha over a large part of western Rumelia, the Ottoman Empire’s European territories, which was referred to as the Pashalik (Tu. paşalık) of Ioannina.

His court was in Ioannina and the territory he governed incorporated most of Epirus and the western parts of Thessaly and Greek Macedonia. He first appeared on the historical scene as a leader of gangs involved in clashes with Ottoman officials in Albania and Epirus. Thanks to his military prowess, his bravery, and his intrigues, he managed to join the Ottoman military and administrative apparatus, holding various posts until he was finally appointed Pasha in 1788, that is, commander of the sançak (sub-division of a province) of Ioannina. To achieve his goals, Ali Pasha embraced all the religious and ethnic groups in his territory. The apparent secularism in his court did not prevent him from punishing Christians and Muslims who had sexual relations with each other. On the other hand, it should also be mentioned that during the first years of his rule, he built roads, ports, bridges, aqueducts and founded schools. He also consolidated security in his territory through the elimination of robbery. Another remarkable detail is that Ali Pasha had great respect for scholars and scientists. His diplomatic and administrative abilities, his interest in modern perceptions, his popularity, his religious neutrality, his fight against banditry, his cruelty and vindictiveness in law enforcement and his looting behaviour, in order to increase his earnings, caused admiration and at the same time criticism, dividing the historiography on his personality. As his influence grew, his involvement in Ottoman politics increased culminating in his active opposition to the ongoing Ottoman military reforms. After being declared a rebel in 1820, he was captured and killed in 1822 at the age of 81 or 82, after a successful military campaign against his forces.
Ali's head was wrapped in a cloth, put on a silver platter and displayed through the streets and at the homes of the notables of Ioannina to prove that the Ali was dead. The local archbishop was having dinner with friends when the bodyguards of Hurschid, the opponent of Ali Pasha, forced their way into the room and deposited the head on the dinner table and demanded money. After saying a prayer for Ali, the archbishop handed over a bag of gold coins. Ali Pasha's headless corps was buried with full honours in a mausoleum next to the Fethiye Mosque, which he shares with one of his wives. His head was meanwhile sent to Constantinople where it was displayed to the public on a revolving platter in a courtyard of the Sultan's palace. When the Sultan subsequently had executed Ali's three sons and grandson, Ali's head was buried with them in tombs outside the Selvyria gate in Constantinople.

Ali Pasha Tepeleni, “the Lion of Ioannina” invited singers, actors and musicians to his visit and to his harem. The stories from the seraglio of Ioannina are also heard by Western visitors. That were French and Russian consuls, but also travellers like Lord Byron and Cob Hobhouse. Their information leaded also to a story in the book of Alexander Dumas, the Count of Monte Christo, in which he mentioned Ali Pasha of Iannina.
Many songs have been passed on, written down, later recorded on 78 rpm audio, cassettes and CD’s and found their way far beyond national borders.
These were songs about the heroic life of Ali Pasha himself, but also about his women. Two of them are very famous, Kyra Vasiliki and Kyra Frosina.


Vasilika

As a young 12-year-old girl, Kyra Vasiliki Kontaksi comes to Ali Pasha to free her father, who has been arrested. Ali Pasha is so impressed by her beauty and bravery that he decides to release her father and to offer her village protection on the condition that she is accepted into his harem. She does this on the condition that she remains a Christian and marries 76-year-old Ali Pasha when she is 26. A chapel is even being built in the harem and a priest regularly comes to lead services. She also uses her power to protect Christians. She has an important role in the death of Ali Pasha.

Frosina's story in Ioannina

Frosina

Euphrosyne Vasileiou (Frosini) was known for her beauty, intelligence and her manners. She came from a noble family and was a niece of the Mitropolitis (Bishop) of Ioannina. She was the wife of a major merchant, Demetrius Vasileiou, who owned two trading houses in Vienna and Venice and was constantly travelling. She was already the mother of two children when Ali Pasha's eldest son, Muhtar fell under her spell. He send her a command to respond to his love and satisfy his passion.

Poor Frosina was shaken and gathered the whole family and relatives to advise what to do. All the members of the family proved timid and without exception advised her to obey Muktar's command; and the victim's uncle was of the same opinion and he deliberately emphasized that they should not anger the pasha. Because her husband would put his life in danger if he would excite the zeal of the pasha, his rival, so it was decided that he should leave Ioannina on the same day.
And indeed he travelled to Bucharest and Frosina surrendered herself to the Pasha's son Muhtar. For some time he visited her often and gave her gifts, among others a very beautiful ring of great value. Frosina wanted to sell it and entrusted the sale to a jeweller. And that man thought, that he would do the best if he offered it to the wife of one of the pashas. Unfortunately, he offered the ring to Muhtar's Pasha's wife. That lady realized that the ring belonged to her a long time ago and so the sell failed. It was revealed where the ring came from and the situation came to light. Muktar's wife demanded the punishment of Frosina to her father-in-law, Ali Pasha Tepeleni. He promised her complete satisfaction. On 10 January 1800, Ali Pasha had Kyra Frosini arrested alongside 17 other women pointed out for the crime of adultery and had them all imprisoned.
The arrest attracted attention and protests from the Greek community in the sensitive political climate in Ottoman Greece. Only 1 of the 18 arrested women was released from custody.
On the night of 11 January 1800, all 17 women, including Kyra Frosini, were executed by drowning in Lake Pamvotida by the order of Ali Pasha. The women were reportedly sewn in sacks and pushed in the lake from a boat in the night.
The reason for the swift execution was reportedly the immediate rage that had occurred in the community because of the arrests, and the willingness of the next of kin of the accused to forgive their purported crimes.

Several theories have been presented as the cause of this event. One theory claims that Ali Pasha was asked by his daughter-in-law to arrest Kyra Frosini for being the lover of her spouse, and that he followed her wish because his daughter-in-law was well connected and he did not wish to lose the support of her powerful family.
A local rumour says that, Ali Pasha himself was deep in love with her and couldn't bear her affair and feelings for his son and her influence over him and that he executed the other women only as a cover up. Another theory was that Ioannina was at that point a society strongly influenced by the West and that Kyra Frosini was a representative of the liberal sexual values within the European aristocracy, where women could take lovers, and that Ali Pasha wished to exterminate what he viewed as decadence and restore conservative sexual double standards.
Adultery committed by a woman was considered a very serious crime in Islamic law, and Ali Pasha was at that point in a difficult position against the Ottoman authorities. He did not wish to seem to be a weak ruler in his province, particularly since there had been some problems with robberies and kidnappings in the province at that time.
In Greece, however, the most popular theory was that the women, at least Frosini, had been executed for political reasons after having been discovered for their taking part in the resistance against the Ottoman Empire, and she was therefore hailed as a national heroine.
The real reason may very well be a combination of the above scenarios.
Ultimately, all these rumours led to many songs about Ali Pasha, Vasilika and Frosina and are known by the “Alipasalitika”. There are long and short versions of Frosina's songs. In this short version song, Frosina is a hero and a martyr of the Greek people. In the song, even the water of the lake should be sweetened with sugar, to help sweet Frosina to survive in the water.

The story of Frosins in Ohrid

The anonymous poet from Ohrid, together with the entire Macedonian people see things a bit different. For a Macedonian, personal happiness and honour, personal and family life, stands above the material interest of relatives, even if they were the closest: their Frosina escaped to Ohrid and thus saved her honour and life, her own and that of her entire family.

What is the relationship between Ioannina and Ohrid? Ohrid was then ruled by Jeladin Bey, a renegade from the Sultan, who skillfully balanced and recognized the authority of Ali Pasha from Ioannina. He created Ohrid as a safe place for living and prosperity – developed trade with many cities such as Ancona, Trieste Vienna, Leipzig, Odessa and of course Constantinople. Jeladin Bey was even related to Ali Pasha. He married Ali Pasha's sister's daughter and pledged allegiance to Ali Pasha and took part in suppressing local rebellion.

The chronicler of that time recorded:
1822, August 1, day Monday….
Jeladin Bey left for Morea, together with Abbas Pasha, and from Ohrid we send him to Monastir (Bitola)…

Another wrote:

… he brought as a gift from Ali Pasha a dozen captives/slaves (girls and women) from there – Tashula, kept her for himself, the others married them, of course for a large monetary compensation in the Srmaboza, PopStefania, Chaule families … and in ten other families – like Dimzo, Lamba for the old Lescar, Elena for Spiro Kotsare, for Kote Chaule, for Paskali at Ketskarovci and Frosina for Dimitri Terzianche! It is not known whether it was this event about the fate of the captives that inspired Ohrid musicians to create the song about the brave Frosina.
For Jeladin Bey life was short. In 1831 he fled for the sultan's army to Egypt, but drowned in the sea on his way. His Christian wife, the captive Tashula stayed in Ohrid until old age and died in 1892 and never converted to the islam.
In the song Frosina came to Ohrid as a beautiful Christian slave and married Jeladin Bey. Ali Pasha wanted her, but she refused and the messenger is proud on her and tells the story of the killing of Ali Pasha.

The text of the songs

The song and text of the Greek song Frosina

Geroteodorou

Serafeim Gerotheodoros: vocal, Nikos Karakostas: clarinet,
recording from 1932.
The presented text here is not exactly the text as sung by Gerotheodoros but given as an example.


GreekEnglish translation
Το μάθατε τί γίνηκε στα Γιάννενα, στην λίμνη?
Σκοτώσανε τις 17 και την κυρά Φροσύνη
Αχ Φροσώ, μωρή Φροσώ…
Φροσώ σε κλαίει η άνοιξη
Φροσώ σε κλαίει η άνοιξη,
σε κλαίει το καλοκαίρι
Σε κλαίει και ο Μυφταρ-πασάς
με το σαμί στο χέρι.
Τρια καράβια ζάχαρη για να ριχτούν
στη λίμνη για να γλυκάνει το νερό,
να πιει η κυρά Φροσύνη.
Did you know what happened in Ioannina, at the lake?
They killed 17 and Mrs. Frosyne
Ah Froso, dear Froso…
Froso the spring is crying for you
Froso the spring is crying for you,
the summer is crying for you
Muhtar Pasha is also crying for you
with the handkerchief in his hand.
Three boatloads of sugar to be thrown
into the lake to sweeten the wate

The song and text of the Ohrid song Frosina

Klime Sadilo

Ohridski Trubaduri
Texts from the site of Pesna.org.

MacedonianEnglish translation
За Фросина (Фросино, моме убаво)

Фросина седит на чардак
на шарен ѓерѓеф везеше
лице је с'нце грееше.

Помина што ми намина
од Алил Паша кабатникот,
на Фросина е зборвеше:

Фросино моме убаво,
скри си го белото лице
со копринена шамија,
пашата седит на диван,
со шарената дуљбија,
да не те паша догледат.

Ушче зборот не дорече
пашата ми ја здогледа,
в' часот ми пушти гавази
на Фросина е зборвеја:

Фросино моме убаво
здраво живо од Алил Паша,
вечер да готвиш вечера
во шареното одајче.
Миндери да му постелиш,
перници да ги наредиш,
пашата да го пречекаш.

Алал е било на Фросина
на гавази му зборвеше,
ич гајле што му немаше:

Ајде бре, силни гавази
од Алил Паша пратени,
здраво живо на Алил Паша
да не се мамит да дојдит!

Да не се мамит да дојдит
не можам паша да чекам,
и пред паша не излегвам.
Јас си сум моме рисјанче,
јас си сум вера крстена.

Фросино моме убаво
ти голем бакшиш да дадеш,
Алил Паша го загубија
во Јанинската чаршија.

Во Јанинската чаршија
главата му ја шетаа
низ тие пусти сокаци.


Frosina sits on the oriel
embroidering over a colourful frame,
her face warmed by the sun.

From somewhere came
a worker of Ali Pasha,
and said to Frosina:

Frosina, beautiful girl,
hide your white face
with a silk headscarf.
The pasha is sitting on his sofa
with his monocular,
he might see you.

He didn't even finish his sentence
and the pasha saw her
he immediately sent messengers
to tell Frosina:

Frosina, beautiful girl,
greetings from Ali Pash,
tonight make a dinner
in your colourful room.
Prepare the settee,
put some extra pillows
and welcome the pasha.

May God bless Frosina
for what she answered to the messengers
without any fear:

Come on, you messengers,
sent by Ali Pasha,
send my greetings to Ali Pasha
and tell him not to dare to come!

He should not dare to come
I can't wait for a pasha,
and I won't welcome him.
I am a Christian girl,
I am of a different religion.

Frosina, beautiful girl,
you should give me a big tip,
Ali Pasha was executed
at the square in Janina.

At the bazaar in Ianina,
they walked with his head
through the empty streets.

Sources

Interview with Vlado Žura in Ohrid in March 2023. Again many thanks to him.
Maria Kapkidi - The So-Called Common Balkan Culture in Popular Music: The Case of “Alipasalitika”
Brandl Rudolf Maria - Ali Pasha und die Musik des Epiros, Cuvillier Verlag Göttingen, 2017
Kounadis' Archive, “Ali Pasas”
Pesna.org
Wikipedia: articles about Frosina and Ali Pasha